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Eros Int’l Doubles Online Subscriber Target After Strong Quarter

Eros International, the Indian film distribution giant, surprised investment analysts with strong subscriber numbers for its Eros Now streaming video service.

The subscription news failed to lift the company’s NYSE-listed shares, after revenue and profits figures for the first quarter of its April to March financial year came out in-line or weaker than some forecasts. The shares dropped 10% on Friday to $15.2.

Eros Int’l. reported revenues up 42.2% to $71.1 million, compared to $50.0 million in the equivalent quarter last year, with operating profits up 76% to $7.2 million, compared to $4.1 million in the prior year period.

The company said that Eros Now has 49.6 million registered users worldwide across apps, WAP and web and that it has over 1.1 million active unique paying subscribers who have paid for at least one month.

The company declined to reveal either the current churn rate or the value of the subscription revenues, which it included within the ‘digital ancillary’ category. It revealed the breakdown of revenues as 53% theatrical, 27% TV licensing, and 20% digital.

Eros said that 1 million figure was previously the company’s three-year target for the 2017 financial year, and it has now doubled that objective to 2 million paying subscribers for the year to March 2017 – a figure it said that took no account of a recent carriage deal with the Reliance Jio mobile broadband platform that launched in India this week.

“We would like to achieve 2 million paying subscribers by the end of fiscal ’17 and 5 million paying subscribers by the end of fiscal ’18. Eros Now has a five-year target of at least 15 to 20 million subscribers worldwide with a blended annual ARPU of conservatively $5 from India and $30 internationally, with 80% of the target subscribers from India and the remaining 20% from international markets,” said CEO Jyoti Deshpande on an earnings call with shareholders and investment analysts.

Movies “Housefull 3” (Hindi), “Sardaar Gabbar Singh” (Telugu), “24” (Tamil), “Ki and Ka” (Hindi) and “Marudhu” (Tamil) were the main revenue contributing titles during the quarter with strong performance across all revenue streams. The company also received a boost to revenues from the resumption of catalog titles, which it had temporarily suspended.

Deshpande said that Eros would remain involved in production and production finance, despite the recent withdrawal from the sector by Disney’s UTV unit.

“We have a strong greenlighting process where we evaluate all kinds of parameters – presales, potential revenues, genre, timing of the release. We’ve built a science around it and we try and not to greenlight films which have to be a blockbuster for us to make our money back, … we are willing to pass on high profile films if we have to overpay for it. Some of the others are just going through that learning curve now, but what it has done is it has put a very nice downward pressure on talent costs and content costs,” said Deshpande on the conference call, transcribed by Seeking Alpha.

“We’re already at a stage where we pretty much manage portfolio and we’re not sort of dependent on one or two films for our revenues. (Our) Hindi and regional slate split across high-medium-low is a solid strategy, and content driven films are getting more backing than just pure talent-driven films.”

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